Mr. Maybelle the Cucumber Salesman

Dimensions:

Puppet 4 1/2 ft. tall – Box 8 1/2 ft. tall

Materials: Antique paper packing box labels.

Character: Mr. Maybelle is based on Pedrolino, but here shouldering the responsibility of being a gentleman of commerce. Given the nature of his merchandise one might say he’s in a constant “pickle,” which would, of course, be in character with Pedrolino’s usual state of affairs: the comic dilemma of a naive and awkward rustic expecting to make a living by selling only “cucumbers?” What a pity! Decked out in his advertising campaign – the very shirt off his back and roof over his head - nothing but cucum-bers? It’s enough to make you cry, as if Tom Joad joined the commedia with Steinbeck characterizing his tragedy as The Cucumbers Of Wrath. What a life! All those dusty country roads and farm wives slamming doors in the face of this poor hayseed struggling to make an honest buck, strains of Woody Guthrie mournful in the air.

History of Mr. Maybelle: Over the years I’ve spent a great deal of time in upstate New York, poking through old barns and garages converted into Ma & Pa roadside antique stores or wandering acres of open-air flea markets installed for the weekend over grassy meadows. Some of these antique sellers had a particular quality to their merchandise that was uniquely their own – a certain style of junk that I could count on finding there. The best of these was Norman Hasselris because Norman is also an artist.

Like a lot of other artists these days, Norman Hasselris makes sculptures out of “found ma-terial.” However, unlike so many, Norman’s work can truly be called “Dadist,” his assemblage having the intellect, wit, and simplicity of the best of them. A visit to Norman’s shop - where he made a small living selling the extra junk he couldn’t help buying at the endless country auctions he attended, but nevertheless couldn’t manage to incorporate into his own work...there not being enough hours within any human lifetime - also meant a visit to his workshop: a former general store, now packed to the brim with a dazzling array of “art” made out of everything and anything transformed by his marvelous juxtapositions into sculptures that triggered delight by “getting” the veiled suggestion always implied. Norman’s shop was like a puzzle with an address in Oak Hill, N.Y. – a place you never expect to find anywhere - an amusement park for the adult mind just off a country road in The Twilight Zone.

Norman got to know my taste in junk, my predilection for “multiples,” and on one visit he smiled his co-conspirator smile and said, “I think I have some-thing you’d like.” Leading me over to a dusty corner, he pointed through the heaps of curiosities to a pile of about 2000 brown and crumbling antique “cucum-ber” packing box labels, all exactly the same and tied with a string. Then he looked up at me, standing there in his worn khaki’s and moth-eaten woolrich plaid and smiled again between his usual three-day gristle and cigarette stubble. Norman always liked to please his customers.